This morning Meteor Blades reported that Jobless benefits claims drop again, but numbers could be skewed by holiday closures of state offices, including this sad news for those whose base unemployment payments have been used up:
Come Saturday, if the president and congressional leaders do not come to agreement on fiscal matters, some 2.1 million people will lose their benefits under the federal extensions. If those extensions are not renewed in the new year, an estimated 900,000 more people will lose their benefits by April 1. Some economists say that such a cut-off combined with the end of the payroll tax cut could, by themselves, throw the nation back into recession.
Arthur Delany picks up this theme in Congress Almost Certain To Blow Unemployment Deadline, telling us even if the special House session convened by Speaker Boehner should unexpectedly pass a solution to budget crisis, it will be too late for the 2 million unemployed who are receiving exgended benefits under the Emergency Unemployment Compensation act:
Democrats have demanded a full reauthorization of emergency benefits through next year, which would cost $30 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The current regimen of benefits provides up to 47 weeks in states with high unemployment rates, for a combined 73 weeks of state and federal compensation. Jobless workers in only nine states are eligible for the full duration.
Republicans have been quiet about the benefits, which many observers consider a sign they won't be a deal-breaker for the GOP. President Barack Obama included unemployment compensation when he called on Congress to pass a scaled-down "fiscal cliff" bill late last week.
Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD) says:
"I’ve never seen a public as energized or as knowledgeable about an issue as they are about the fiscal cliff," Hoyer said. "I don’t mean that they know every paragraph, sentence, and ramification of the failure to stop going over the fiscal cliff, but they know it will not be positive. They know it will have a negative impact on the economy and they know it will have a negative impact on them and their families. And they are expecting us to be here to work, and we’re not."
One advantage of rallying public compassion and outrage to extend these benefits as a stand alone bill, on its own merits, starting in the Senate, might be that we may end up having to make less severe concessions to the intransigent House Republicans to get an extension than we've apparently offered to House Speaker Boehner in the rejected "grand bargain" which is reported to have included chained CPI which would have cost seniors vastly more in human suffering and start the steady compounding reduction of the value to recipients essentially forever.
I hope Senate Majority leader Harry Reid proposes a stand alone bill extending these benefits we can rally behind, as well as as many other bills combining this with $250,000 threshold tax cuts, and Medicare doctors fix. My hope is that if we are willing to play hardball, and rally public support around each component of the "fiscal cliff" we may get through the whole situation with the least possible damage to our common good and the constituencies that depend on the Democratic Party to defend their interests.